This is how Glen Burnie wanted to go into the regional playoffs, riding the momentum that comes from winning the Anne Arundel County volleyball championship.
Sisters Heather and Amy Hutson combined for 35 kills and 33 assists, leading No. 4 Glen Burnie past No. 3 Severna Park, 15-12, 15-10, 16-18, 15-7, at Arundel.
This is the first time that two teams were pitted against each other to determine a county champion, and the Gophers were ready.
They arrived at school early wearing their uniforms and sweat suits. Their principal treated them to breakfast. They were in a positive frame of mind all day.
"They weren't nervous. They were just ready to go," said coach Juanita Milani.
Heather Hutson was 28-for-29 serving with four aces, 15 kills and 24 assists. Amy had 20 kills and nine assists.
Denise Warren was 27-for-28 serving with two aces, five kills and one assist. Stacey Ellenberger was 14-for-15 with four kills. Meghan Matukonis was 20-for-21 with six kills. And Jen Stapler was 18-for-19 with two aces and four kills.
Together, they gave Glen Burnie (14-1) its first win over Severna Park (18-3) in four years. "To finally beat the team we've had the biggest problem with is incredible," said Heather Hutson.
Julie Allen and Lauren Butler had 20 and 10 kills, respectively, but they struggled with their hitting. Allen was set 63 times, Butler 36.
The Falcons used consistent serving to hand Glen Burnie its only loss, 3-2, on Oct. 11, but that element was missing in the rematch.
"Instead of a four-man serve reception, we went to a five-man reception, and it was effective," Milani said.
The Falcons never led in the first game, falling behind, 5-0 and 9-1. Warren served the first five winners, and numerous mistakes by Severna Park helped keep Glen Burnie in front.
There were three ties in the second game before Glen Burnie went ahead for good, 11-10, on an ace by Stapler. She later ended the game with a kill.
Glen Burnie fought back from a 9-3 deficit in the third game to lead, 15-14. A kill by Ellenberger had returned service to the Gophers with Severna Park ahead, 14-11, and Heather Hutson served four straight winners, including two aces. But the Falcons went back in front, 16-15 with Jodi Blair serving, before a block by Matukonis tied the score.
Allen served the last two winners. Sherri Patton closed the game with a kill.
Severna Park jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the fourth game with Danielle Kaegel serving, but then faltered. Glen Burnie eventually pulled even, 7-7, and the match ended on an Ellenberger block.
"I felt all along that they were the best team in the county, overall," Milani said of the Gophers. "As a team, I have six players on the floor who can play with the best in Anne Arundel County."
Said Falcons coach Tim Dunbar: "We just missed too many serves at inopportune times. We were just never able to put together any long, sustained runs."
Both teams now will focus on the Class 4A East Region playoffs. They each have a first-round bye, but Glen Burnie then must play Northern-Calvert, which some people believe will end Severna Park's title run.
The Falcons will meet the winner of Friday's match between Arundel and Queen Anne's.